Following the death of Nashat Melhelm, an Israeli Arab who perpetrated a terror attack in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016, the Arab media reported that the Palestinian Health Ministry, which maintains a register of those "martyred" in the recent clashes, added Melhelm's name to the register but subsequently removed it. The Ministry's decision not to include him in the register of martyrs sparked a wave of criticism against the PA on social media, as well as a scathing condemnation from the deputy chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, top Hamas official Ahmad Bahr. Some of the criticism on social media was posted under the hashtag "The 150th martyr, whether you like or not."
Image posted on social media: "Nashat Melhem - The 150th Martyr" (Facebook.com/palinfo, January 9, 2016)
In response to the criticism, on January 9, 2016 the Health Ministry issued a press statement clarifying that Melhem was a martyr just like any other Palestinian martyr, and that he had not been included in the register for a technical reason: because the Ministry recorded the names of martyrs from the West Bank and Gaza only.
The following is a translation of the Ministry's clarifying statement, as posted on its website:
"The Palestinian Ministry of Health stressed that the recording of martyrs' names is defined as one of its official functions and its areas of responsibility in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the Gaza Strip [but not elsewhere]. The Ministry added, in a press statement issued today, Saturday [January 9, 2016], that the non-inclusion of the martyr Nashat Melhem's name in its register [of martyrs] does not indicate that the title [of martyr] has been denied him. On the contrary, he is one of the most valued martyrs, and his name is inscribed in his pure blood that watered the soil of our free homeland. [The Ministry] noted that the non-inclusion of the martyr Nashat Melhem's name [in the register] stems from the fact that, as part of its activity, the Ministry is in charge of recording patients, diseases, martyrs and the wounded [in the West Bank and Gaza only]. [Hence,] the non-inclusion of Melhem in its register does not indicate that he is not [considered] a martyr. On the contrary, he is like any other Palestinian martyr anywhere in the world.
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"The Ministry clarified in its statement that the exploiting of this small detail by a number of people, and the leveling of accusations of treason at Ministry employees, [are acts that] have nothing to do with patriotism, since we did not hear any of those people expressing any criticism of Israel's crimes against our people. Had [those people, instead of] investing their energy in maligning the Ministry, invested it in exposing the crimes of the occupation, their efforts would have been written in letters of gold.
"The Ministry said: We are proud of our Palestinian people in the '48 territories, and are proud of their sacrifices that have gone down in history and of their accomplishments in every domain - ideological, academic and national. Their profound affiliation with their motherland, Palestine, cannot be denied under any circumstances."
The Health Ministry's statement